Midday Meal Scheme: India

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States with over 50 lakh children under the scheme; Mid-day meal scheme, 1925-2009; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, August 5, 2016
Fortified rice, the Odisha model; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, January 20, 2016

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Contents

History

THE GROWING SCHEME

The Times of India 2013/07/18

Aug 15, 1995 | Union govt launches Midday Meal Scheme in 2,408 blocks as a dry rations scheme. Based on scheme running successfully in Tamil Nadu since 1960s. By 1997-98 introduced in all blocks

April 2002 | Cooked meals scheme extended to all Government-assisted primary schools, local body schools

Sept 2006 | Nutrition boost to scheme: Cooked meal with 450 calories, 12g protein to kids in primary classes (I-V)

April 2008 | Scheme expands to include all kids studying in schools and learning-centres like madrassas etc supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

By 2011-12, Over 2.4 million cooks/helpers mostly women engaged. Over 570,000 kitchens and stores in schools

2013: 10.7 crore children under scheme

Nutritional and hygienic servings have been major challenges in most states

Several scams busted where food-grain is pilfered, poor quality meals served

The economics

2011-15: Cost per child

Akshaya Mukul, Aug 01 2015: The Times of India

Mid day meal, cooking cost per child per school day, 2011-15; Graphic courtesy: Akshaya Mukul, Aug 01 2015: The Times of India

Slim hike in cooking costs adds to midday meal woes

There can be a healthy subsidy for food for MPs in Parliament but for 12 crore children availing of midday meals, grants continue to come in trickles.

After 50 children in Lucknow fell ill consuming milk under the midday meal scheme, HRD ministry hiked the cooking cost of meal per primary child by 17 paise and per upper primary child by 26 paise from 2014. Sources said this will only deepen the crisis in MDM scheme that got only Rs 9,000 crore in this year's budget though HRD demanded Rs 16,000 crore. The new cooking cost has been hiked by 5%, unlike 7% in the past and stands at Rs 3.76 per primary school child and Rs 5.64 per upper primary school child. The abysmal amount includes cost of cooking oil, pulses, vegetables and condiments.

U.P.: 2013-19

Ishita Bhatia & Deepak Lavania, With inputs from Harveer Dabas and Vinod Khanal, Is 4.5 enough for a child’s midday meal? UP to find out, September 11, 2019: The Times of India

Prescribed nutritional content for midday meals- primary and upper primary classes
From: Ishita Bhatia and Deepak Lavania, (With inputs from Harveer Dabas and Vinod Khanal), September 12, 2019: The Times of India


Quality, Release Of Funds Stand Out As Major Issues As State Govt Ropes In IIM To Audit Its School Meals After Mirzapur Video Of Roti-Salt Lunch

Chandu (name changed), a student at a school in Bijnor’s Mohammad Deovmal block, seldom gets green vegetables in his midday meal. The usual fare is potatoes. And no milk.

The issue of substandard food served as midday meal is in the spotlight after a video of kids in UP’s Mirzapur being given salt and chapati grabbed headlines. Decades after it was rolled out, the midday meal scheme — which aims to boost nutrition and attendance in school — remains riddled with organisational and logistical issues. Non-compliance with nutritional norms, poor quality food and delay in clearance of dues plagues the scheme in UP despite the state announcing Rs 2,000 crore for midday meals in its 2019-20 budget.

The UP government has now announced that it will conduct audits of food served to children. For this, external agencies, including IIM-Lucknow, Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute and Lucknow University will be roped in. Vijay Kiran Anand, director, Mid Day Meal Authority, told TOI that a blueprint for the audit process is being readied. He added that it was the verification process that was causing the delay in disbursing money. “District officials have to check utilisation of previous funds, hence the delay.” However, “instructions have been issued to transfer the money within a week”.

In Agra, a teacher said they had not received funds to cover midday meal costs for several months. Many schools haven’t received money for fruits for 18 months. “Even payment of cooks has been pending for long,” said Rajeev Verma, general secretary of primary teachers’ association in Agra. Omkar Singh, the basic shiksha adhikari (BSA) in Agra, admitted there was delay in disbursing funds but that “all schools will get funds within the next few days”.

While the government provides wheat and rice to schools directly, funds for all other supplies, conversion costs — expenses for vegetables, pulses, LPG, spices and oil — and salaries of cooks are released by Mid Day Meal Authority to district-level BSA offices, which then transfer the money to school management committees. In some urban centres, NGOs implement the scheme.

But teachers said that conversion costs of Rs 4.48 (primary) and Rs 6.71 (upper primary) per child per day were too little. “The government has also asked us to squeeze in expenses on milk in conversion costs. It’s just not possible,” said a primary school teacher.

Thus, milk — added on the menu in 2015 and an essential component of a nutrient rich diet — is out of reach for most. “There are 300 students in my school and according to norms at least 45kg of milk should arrive for distribution every Wednesday, but we get only 3.5 to 4 kg. The only way to ensure that all students get milk is to add water to it,” said an assistant teacher in Meerut.

According to norms, primary students (up to Class V) are supposed to get 150ml of milk each and upper primary students (from Class VI to VIII) 200ml of milk each on Wednesdays. Seasonal fruits, another addition to the thali in 2016, remain mostly confined to bananas. The government provides Rs 4 per child for one fruit serving per week.

A school kid in Meerut said that tasteless watery gruel served in place of daal is forcing him and a few others to bring lunch from home. “The chapatis are stiff, cold and often half-cooked,” the class 5 student said.

Teachers are often in a dilemma: Watch students go hungry or spend from their own pocket. Many choose the latter. Headmaster of a government-aided school at Umarpur Neewa in Allahabad said, “Through the years, I must have paid about Rs 50,000 to ensure kids have good meals.”

Food poisoning Incidents

2012-13

Midday Meal Scheme: The July 16 incident refers to the year 2013

See graphic: ' Midday Meal Scheme: The July 16 incident refers to the year 2013'

Midday Meal Scheme in Delhi

Midday Meal Scheme in Delhi


QUALITY ISSUES in Delhi

The Times of India 2013/07/19

Meal quality is average and portions are smaller than prescribed size

Many students (7-13%) are not served meals in a day

None of the surveyed schools have kitchen sheds

Potable water is scarce, especially for the 2nd shift boys’ schools

Children are not encouraged to wash their hands before and after meals

Usually, suppliers receive food grains 50 days after supplying meals

Most schools do not display menus or the midday meal logo

Cooks-cum-helpers do not meet government norms

Schools do not discuss the meal scheme with parents Most schools do not maintain a receipts register for meals

(*Findings of the 4th Half-Yearly Monitoring Institution Report (April-September 2012) for the city’s East and Northeast districts)

CONCERNS

Meals deficient in vital vitamins and micro-nutrients.

In 2012, the corporations found 83% meals nutritionally deficient

Service hygiene | Utensils and dining areas often unclean; 3 incidents of food poisoning in the past three years

Budget | Cost per meal should be increased to at least Rs5

Teachers' role

Teachers should not be asked to supervise cooking of meals: HC

The Times of India, Jul 25, 2013

ALLAHABAD/PATNA: The duty of school teachers and principals is to teach students and not to supervise cooking of meals, the Allahabad high court has observed, close on the heels of Bihar midday meal tragedy.

The observation by the court in Uttar Pradesh came even as three lakh primary school teachers across Bihar boycotted midday meal duties on the grounds they interfered with teaching work.

"The duty of teachers and principals of schools is to teach the students and not to supervise the cooking of meals," a division bench comprising Justice Shiva Kirti Singh and Justice Vikram Nath observed yesterday amid questions whether teaching staff at government schools should be saddled with the implementation of the scheme.

The court was hearing a PIL filed by Meerut-based UP Pradhanacharya Parishad.

Government had asked principals, rather than NGOs, to supervise the cooking

The PIL had challenged an order of the district inspector of schools, dated June 19, whereby the earlier system of NGOs being entrusted with preparing midday meals was scrapped and principals were directed to get the food prepared in their respective schools under their personal supervision.

The petitioners had contended that the new system would interfere with the duties of teachers in Meerut and pointed out that NGOs were taking care of midday meals in a number of neighbouring districts.

Expressing surprise over the submission, the court said, "There must be uniformity across the state with regard to who shall be entrusted with a specific task like preparing midday meals".

The court ordered that in Meerut, the previous system (of NGOs preparing midday meals) would continue until further orders.

See also

Monocrotophos pesticide: India, that being the poison responsible for the Bihar deaths of 2013.

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